Today I  take a look at the health benefits of hugs.

Though it might seem like a simple gesture, hugging can have a significant impact on our physical and mental health.

Find out more in my latest video. (If you would prefer to read about it instead, there is a transcript below the video).

Health Benefits of Hugs – Video Transcript

Health benefits of hugs, really? Most certainly there are, I feel quite strongly about this subject.

We hug when we’re excited, happy, or sad, it makes us feel good, healthier and happier.  And research backs this up.

Our skin is hungry for touch, our bodies want to be touched because that’s how we’re wired.

‘Skin hunger’ is a layman’s term for what, in research, is known as ‘affection deprivation’, can be associated  to stress, depression, loneliness and anxiety.

When we move the skin, like when we hug, it stimulates pressure receptors which are transmitted to the vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve is the largest cranial nerve, that has many branches in the body, and increased vagal activity calms the nervous system.  It also reduces the primary stress hormone – cortisol – which in turn boosts our natural killer cells that kill virus’s, and bacteria.

anxiety

Also, from the time we’re born, our family’s touch shows us that we’re loved and special, this is  embedded in our nervous systems, and the ongoing cuddles we got from Mum and Dad while growing up, remain imprinted  at a cellular level

On the ‘sciency’ side, oxytocin is a chemical in our bodies that is sometimes called the “cuddle hormone.” This is because its levels rise when we hug, touch, or sit close to someone that we like.

Oxytocin also calms our heart rates, helping us to relax, to feel safe and to calm our fears and anxiety.

This has a knock on effect on our immune systems reducing the chances of getting sick.

When it comes to communicating, we aren’t always successful in saying the right words at the right moment, so a hug comes in really handy to do just that. It saves us from putting our foot in it, and instead expresses how we feel in such a lovely meaningful way.

And if you think about it, most of our communication is done verbally or through facial expressions, so touch or a hug can be such an important way of communicating.

Back to health benefits of hugs.

How many hugs do we need every day?

We need:

  • 4 hugs a day for survival
  • 8 hugs a day maintenance
  • 12 hugs a day to thrive.

And, can you believe, that the average length of a hug between two people is around 3 seconds. Yet…. research says that when a hug lasts 20 seconds, oxytocin kicks in and we maximise our health benefits.

Hugs also stimulate our brains to release dopamine, the pleasure hormone.

Dopamine is responsible for giving us that feel-good feeling, and it’s also responsible for motivation!

And endorphins and serotonin are also released when we fling our arms around each other, which can help reduce pain and sadness and possible heart problems.

So if we hug for an extended length of time, our serotonin levels are boosted, and so are our moods.

So lets just get out there and hug ourselves into good health!

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